The independent London newspaper

Sleeping on buses? Capital must wake up to rent cap

09 November, 2017

HAVE you noticed people sleeping in a bus – and just thought they must have dozed off?

Yes, perhaps. Or they may be using the bus as a “bed” for the night.

This view of nightlife in London must have shocked the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when he visited the New Horizons Day Centre in Somers Town.

But it isn’t all that surprising when you consider the ever-deepening crisis facing our rent generation.

Reams have been written about this crisis but nothing has been done about it.

Once, in the heady days of the free market, before the 1990s, rents were roughly a quarter or slightly more of the average London weekly wage – today, they are well over 50 per cent.

The reason: Too few rental properties on the market to meet an expanding capital while council housing has been virtually halted.

Faced with resentment and anger from rent generation, politicians have joined the chorus of condemnation.

They’ve talked a lot about the need to do something – and then fallen silent.

Only Jeremy Corbyn has put his head above the parapet and come up with a partial solution – a rent cap for landlords. Alongside this, of course, there would be a need to pump up the supply of housing by a massive council housing programme.

The usual argument has been wheeled out in opposition to a rental cap – that it will discourage landlords from renting their properties, and thus exacerbate the problem.

In fact, rental caps were in operation in the post-war years – and were generally successful – only to be abolished in the rush by Mrs Thatcher to slash any form of state management of the economy.

The idea of a rental cap is being received less truculently nowadays – and no wonder, considering the size of today’s property crisis.

But Mrs May and her party are clearly reluctant to promote it.

Partly because it is difficult for them to jettison any part of Mrs Thatcher’s programme, and partly because the influence of the landlord class is – in terms of society’s needs – too baleful. But, we are sure, if it were put to the vote, you would hear an overwhelming Yes in the capital.

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